Review: Spore Origins for iPhone

Agam Shah
16 October, 2008
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Leave it to EA to leave no stone unturned for its Spore franchise. The brainchild of Sim City and The Sims maker Will Wright, Spore is living up to its concept and is evolving a broad range of game titles for various devices. Spore is available for the Mac and PC, and soon there will be expansion packs for it as there have been for Sims games. Spore Creatures was released for the Nintendo DS. And Spore Origins has been brought to the iPhone and the iPod.

Spore Origins for the iPhone (which, for some reason, is not yet available in the Australian iTunes Store) roughly follows the same track as the iPod game, though the interface has been improved for the iPhone and the game benefits from the device’s larger screen too. But it’s essentially the same game, culled from the “full” Spore game’s first stage, when you’re responsible for the care, feeding and evolution of a microscopic spore swimming in protoplasmic ooze.

It’s alive: In Spore Origins for the iPhone, you evolve and change your creature to suit its environment and meet challenges, adding parts to sense food, swim faster, and fight enemies.

It’s basically a game of eat or be eaten; you collect microbes and nutrients that are free-floating in the liquid around you or you collide into smaller creatures, consuming them whole or in parts to improve your health and increase a DNA meter. You move by tilting your iPhone or iPod touch up, down, left and right—everything is displayed in landscape orientation.

At set points in the game, you can cash in “evolution points” to improve your creature—enhancing its defenses, swimming ability or ability to sense its surroundings—and you can also adjust its skin color and its basic shape (each creature consists of a head part, a trunk part and a tail part). As the game plays on through increasingly large pools of liquid, you go from the smallest kid on the block to a bigger and bigger critter, easily consuming monsters that seemed gargantuan only a level or two below.

You’ll also occasionally gain access to “super parts” that will temporarily imbue you with an especially powerful ability. Symbiotes—tiny, free-floating organisms—provide similar functionality, making you temporarily poisonous or harder to eat.

Spore Origins is certainly no substitute for the whole Spore game, but it’s a fun diversion with levels that play through fairly quickly, so it’s easily to restart between sessions without feeling like you’ve lost too much time or have to replay events that you find excessively difficult.

Options are fairly basic—you can turn a tutorial on and off, adjust (or turn off) game music and effects sound volume, and also set the relative tilt angle of the device—a fine calibration tool if you find holding your iPhone level with the ground to be uncomfortable or awkward.

It’s worth noting that Spore Origins (for both the iPod and iPhone) was developed by Tricky Software, an independent Mac software developer whose last effort was the 3-D side scrolling action game Armado. It’s nice to see EA work with existing Mac talent to bring new titles to the iPhone—and hopefully it’ll lead to more work for Tricky.

Spore Origins is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.

[Senior editor Peter Cohen covers games for Macworld’s Game Room.]

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